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Egypt has been working to reinstate calm between Israel and Hamas after an informal ceasefire brokered by Cairo unravelled over the past few weeks. Meshaal, who lives in exile, has already held a round of talks with Egyptian security officials.
Israel uncorked its massive air campaign on Wednesday with the declared goal of deterring Hamas from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years. The salvoes recently intensified, and are now displaying greater range.
The operation has drawn Western support for what U.S. and European leaders have called Israel’s right to self-defence, along with appeals to both sides to avoid civilian casualties.
Hamas, shunned by the West over its refusal to recognise Israel, says its cross-border attacks have come in response to Israeli strikes against Palestinian fighters in Gaza.
“We have not limited ourselves in means or in time,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Israel’s Channel One television. “We hope that it will end as soon as possible, but that will be only after all the objectives have been achieved.”
Hamas says it is committed to continued confrontation with Israel and is eager not to seem any less resolute than smaller, more radical groups that have emerged in Gaza in recent years.
The Islamist movement has ruled Gaza since 2007. Israel pulled settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but maintains a blockade of the tiny, densely populated coastal territory.
RESERVE TROOP QUOTA DOUBLED
At a late night session on Friday, Israel’s cabinet decided to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75,000, political sources said.